web analytics
May 24, 2015 / 6 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


The ‘Maharat': Wonderful Achievement, Bad Idea

the title rabbi (or its equivalent) is more than about recognition of achievement.

Maharat

When I was a young man around the time I was studying for semicha at the Hebrew Theological College, I had written article in a now defunct local Jewish magazine, the Sentinel. It was in response to a scathing attack against the idea of ordaining women by a prominent rosh yeshiva (yeshiva dean).

I explained that the title rabbi stems from the word “rebbe” which literally means teacher. As such there was nothing wrong with calling a woman educated to teach Judaism with that title. That was over 40 years ago. Some would say that I was ahead of my time.

But I was wrong and regret writing it. I was wrong because in my impetuous youth I did not understand what I understand today, that something which is not a black and white issur (prohibition) does not necessarily make it a good idea to pursue. Nor did I understand that breaking with tradition can open a Pandora’s box that will be counter-productive to our future.

The truth is that there are Halachic issues with female rabbis. I’ve discussed them before in essays where I argued against the ordination of women. It is not that I am a misogynist. I personally have no problem with female rabbis. But I would not have any problem counting women into Minyan either. Except that Halacha does not allow me to do that. There are Halachic issues with respect to female rabbis too. Like serara. While I have no personal problem with it, I have a Halachic problem with it. Women are forbidden by Halacha to take positions of leadership in certain Jewish areas. Like Shuls.

I had also argued in the past that even though women can serve in other areas the way rabbis do (e.g., teachers) the primary and historic function of a rabbi has always been in a shul as a pulpit rabbi. Leaving aside the issue of serara it is highly impractical and awkward for a woman to be the rabbi of a shul.

The primary function of a shul is prayer – doing so with a minyan. A woman may not be counted into a minyan and may not be present in the actual sanctuary of a shul with the men unless she is separated by a mechitza (partition). While a rabbi can have a position outside of the actual area of prayer – like in a classroom or as a principal or a pastoral marriage counselor, that has always been a secondary role. Even though there are ways where a woman can technically lead from ‘behind the mechitza’ and address the members with a D’var Torah from a podium after the service… I think it is safe to say that this is a highly impractical way for a spiritual leader of a shul to function.

There are also perception issues. When an Orthodox Shul lists a woman as a rabbi a public unfamiliar with the nuances of Halacha on this issue can make the mistaken assumption that the Shul has broken with Halacha.

So while there may be ways to skirt the Halacha and technically not violate it – it isn’t pretty… and in my view undermines the spirit if not the letter of the law. What is gained on some sort of equal rights way is lost by the radical departure from normative Orthodoxy.

Which is the reason I agree with the Rabbinical Council of Amercia (RCA) position on the recent graduation of three women clergy from Yeshivat Maharat. They have rejected it. In an article in the Forward RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin explained it as a violation of our Mesorah – tradition:

“We feel extremely strongly that there is certainly room for women leadership within the Orthodox community, both educationally and professionally,” RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin told the Forward. “We do not believe, however, that it is appropriate for women to be ordained as rabbis.”

Goldin added that he did not think the school was defying the Orthodox community but rather was “moving in ways that are removing it from the normative Orthodox community. It’s not a question of defiance, it’s a question of direction.”

I completely agree. Calling a woman a “maharat” instead of rabbi is an irrelevant distinction. A spiritual leader, a maharat, and a rabbi are all the same thing. That Yeshivat Maharat founder Rabbi Avi Weiss gave in to pressure- promising not to call his graduates rabba (his feminization of the word rabbi) is really a meaningless gesture. With apologies to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – a rose by any other name is still a rose.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “The ‘Maharat': Wonderful Achievement, Bad Idea”

  1. Myriam Obadia says:

    Not I would ever want to be a Rabbi (or even a Maharat), but you haven't convinced me that your reasoning is sound in the matter. It seems to me that you rely on sophistry more than on logic.

  2. David Willig says:

    What about if we called them CHAPLAINS. If they were allowed to serve in Hospitals, nursing homes and the ARMY. Why is it that Rebbetzins can do all sorts of things that learned woman, who are not married to Rabbis, are not allowed to do.

Comments are closed.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
Sha'ar Shechem / Damascus Gate. The Old City of Jerusalem.
Arab Stabs 2 Jewish Teens in Old City Terror Attack on Shavuot
Latest Blogs Stories
Rabbi Levinger (zt"l)

Torah is to be lived. Rabbi Moshe Levinger was a completely living Torah, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael

Tadmor - Yerushalmi

“Said Rabbi Yochanan: Happy are those who see the fall of Tadmor…” (Talmud Yerushalmi)

Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi is looking to come home to the Likud he abandoned a few years ago.

Why has Prime Minister Netanyahu given Erdan & Hanegbi insultingly low-level cabinet appointments?

Rabbi Levinger in blue, seated with the author

Without Israel, the Jewish People are scattered nomads lacking Torah’s true national grandeur&power

Will it get better/worse for Bibi or does the wily Bibi know/plan something that will shock us all?

Dr. Vernon Smith, 2002 Economics Nobel Prize winner, on predicting housing markets & economic issues

100% of the ‘First Responders’ helping those Arab school girls were Jewish and they didn’t hesitate!

Women equalizing with men in all areas of Judaism is anathema to the very idea of male/female roles.

Bibi endorsing the “2 State Solution” endangers Israel, moving the policy Center-Right from far Left

Dear Opposition Members… You seem confused… Let me clear it up for you… You lost.

A tribute to Jerusalem by its finest troubador, David Herman.

Do the food giants really care about our health? Are consumers now eating healthier food?

If other pleasures exceed the joy we feel for Jerusalem, then something is wrong with our Judaism.

There will be peace when we listen to G-d and do want he tells us to do – all for our very own good.

We will celebrate and thank the L-rd for our blessings, determined to truly liberate our Holy sites

For the record, the grand total of Jewish grandmothers in Israel that have blown up ANYTHING: ZERO!

More Articles from Harry Maryles
Rabbi Jeffrey Fox,Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat

Women equalizing with men in all areas of Judaism is anathema to the very idea of male/female roles.

gay not gay

Kavod HaBriyos and the Halachic prohibition of homosexual sex: How do we honor both laws?

The religious parties’ agenda is to undo the progress they saw as regress made in the last Keneset

There are encouraging reports of increased enrollment in Charedi army and educational programs

Rav Riskin’s desire to strengthen ties with Christians is pure but his methods have crossed lines

Truly, in the modern world, we live in the time of ‘What’s in it for me?’ The time of the ‘selfie’!

Attackers of this innocent religious solider had been brainwashed that Israel is evil & illegitimate

He was a Torah giant, uniquely exemplifying the Hashkafa of Torah U’Mada (Torah & worldly knowledge)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-maharat-wonderful-achievement-bad-idea/2013/05/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: